Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: March 9, 2011

Rhetoric vs. Reality: trying out the Obama record

It is something – the difference between rhetoric and reality -  I don’t think Obama, for all the claims of his intelligence, understands.  Just because you claim something is true doesn’t make it so (I know, something most of us learned around age 6).

In a speech in Boston – at a fund raiser:

Obama says that America should not be about the “haves and the have-nots.”

Didn’t know that it is, but this is a comfortable and popular theme among the limo liberal crowd, so it isn’t surprising the old horse was trotted out one more time.  But let me set the scene for you:

President Obama addressed a group of 152 Democratic donors at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The walls were lined with enormous original oil portraits from the 16th century and guests are seated around about 24 round tables.

Lots of “have nots” in that room weren’t there? 

But that isn’t the major point here – just wanted you to understand the context of the next part.  To add to the surreal atmosphere he said this:

In welcoming Nancy Pelosi, Obama called her “someone who’s going to go down as one of the greatest Speakers in our history: Nancy Pelosi.”

“When the rubble had cleared, when the dust had settled. This country was going through as touch a time economically, as tough a time financially, as any period since the 1930s,” Obama said..

His administration “had to make a series of quick decisions, and often times unpopular decisions,” Obama said.

In those times, Obama said, there would have been a temptation to “resort to the expedient.”

“That’s why when I say, Nancy is going to go down as one of our finest speakers… I mean what I say,” Obama continued.

“Not only were we able to yank this economy out of the recession,” Obama said.

“Not only were we able to get this economy going again, that in the last 15 months we’ve seen the economy add jobs…but under Nancy’s leadership we were able to achieve historic health care legislation that over the last 15, 20 years will end up benefiting millions of families across the country… we were able to get “don’t ask, don’t’ tell” repealed,” he continued, adding that Congress expand our investments in clean energy, made the largest investments in infrastructure and the largest investments in education in years.

“We didn’t just rescue the economy we put it on the strongest footing for the future,” Obama said.

“And along the way we saved the auto industry and a few other things,” he quipped, to some laughter from the crowd.

Obama went over a kept promise to end combat in Iraq, and reduce the country’s military commitment in Afghanistan.

Where to start?!

Suffice it to say, anyone who could tout Nancy Pelosi as the “greatest Speakers in our history” either has the ideological blinders on so tight they’re cutting off blood flow to the brain or has a rather tenuous grasp on reality.  Nancy Pelosi, if anything positive could be said about her, was a compliant means to an end.  Someone from the short bus should have been able to push through just about anything they wanted in Nancy Pelosi’s House, given the huge majority Democrats had. 

And she was complicit in the biggest expansion of government, not to mention the largest expansion of the public debt, of any Speaker I know.

Great?  For America, she was a disaster.  And so is the person fawningly praising her.

As for his other claims, well that’s just what they are … claims.  He’d like you to believe them because doing so helps his case, but what you see here is a sort of test run of how he plans on spinning his record – something he’s never had to run on before.

Each and every point is either highly debatable or can be refuted outright.   I got a kick out of one of the commenters under this story addressing his Iraq claim about ending combat:

If you think Obama stopped combat here, you are stunningly gullible.

Our guys are out on patrol every day and night amid the IEDs and VBIEDs. Our specops forces are operating outside the wire every day and night. The mortars and rockets are hitting our FOBs on a very regular basis. Purple Hearts are still being issued, including two on my FOB in January when a 107mm rocket landed across the street in one of my buddy’s men’s huts.

You live in Fantasyland, but thanks for the laugh.

The last line pretty much sums up the 152 Democrats in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last night and much of the left right now – sitting there listening to a litany of “accomplishments” that are straight out of Fantasyland. 

Doubling the debt, multi-year trillion dollar deficits, expanded government, expanded spending, 9% unemployment and a jobs record that won’t even maintain the status quo.  Clueless about foreign policy, no energy policy, Gitmo still open, still in Iraq and little to show but another huge entitlement we can’t afford.

That’s the record he’s compiled.  And Nancy helped.

That is the record you need to remember.

~McQ

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Federal government employee compensation v. comparable private sector compensation

Are federal employees compensated better than comparable private sector employees?

Andrew Biggs an economist with the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, an economist with the Heritage Foundation, have conducted a study which finds that yes, indeed they are. And, in fact, by quite a bit. In a conference call they outlined their methodology (you can find it in detail here in the study).

You may find their conclusions a bit startling but probably unsurprising.  Biggs and Richwine compared three areas between federal government employees and comparable private sector employees: Salaries, benefits and job security.

Salaries:

Biggs and Richwine found that on average (using the Human Capital Model which is a widely accepted model for such studies) federal government employees enjoyed a 14% salary premium over private employees at the same level.  The primary reason they found is federal employees are, on average, promoted more quickly in their jobs meaning at a comparable level with private sector employees they are usually less skilled and less experienced. 

Benefits:

In terms of benefits, they found that private sector benefits in large private corporations (500+) averaged about 50% of salary.  Federal workers enjoyed a significant advantage here, with an average of 66% of salary added in benefits.  For instance, federal employees enjoyed significantly more paid time off than do private sector types (25%).  Additionally, employee contributions to retirement are 3 times that of private sector employees.  Bottom line: federal employees enjoy a 33% premium over private employees.

Job Security:

This measures the probability of becoming unemployed.  Federal employees are much less likely to be laid off than are private sector employees.  The study calculated an 11% premium here.  Said another way, if a private sector employee was asked if he would take a 10% pay cut to be guaranteed employment no matter what, almost all would take it.

Adding all of that up (14% salary premium, 33% benefits premium and 11% job security premium) and weighting them properly, the total pay package including those three elements provides federal employees with a 39% premium over private sector employees in comparable positions.

The important question?  How much is that difference worth in tax payer dollars?  The market value of the difference is $60 billion dollars – a year.

Obviously what isn’t going to happen (reality in politics alert) is a $60 billion dollar reduction in pay and benefits.  Or layoffs to balance it out. 

But what can be planned is bringing federal compensation in line with private compensation on an apples to apples basis and eliminating that gap.

We all know how popular that will be right? Especially with the government unions (who’ve once again negotiated sweetheart deals with compliant politicians).  But this is a nice chunk that can at least be eliminated at a future date through wage and benefit parity.  Of course that means really freezing wages, rolling back benefit contributions and other unpopular fixes.

Biggs and Richwine will be testifying at a House Oversight Committee hearing on federal employee pay.  Any bets on whether or not the final verdict of the committee isn’t to kick the can down the road again and leave the problem for others?

~McQ

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The NPR kerfuffle and subsidies

Call it the obligatory NPR story, but I found the video of the NPR exec talking to a couple of fake Muslim Brotherhood types to be pretty revealing about the attitude of that particular organization.

And, like you, I’m sure, wondered “why, again are we subsidizing this particular entity?” 

Of course I’d like to see government get out of the subsidy business altogether and yes that includes corporate welfare as well.

But this thing with NPR hit a particular nerve that goes beyond that.  It clearly exposes a bias that certainly didn’t require much prodding from the fake Muslims to expose.

Ron Schiller, the NPR executive, is a real “treasure”.  He tells the “Muslims” that NPR fired Juan Williams because it provides "non-racist, non-bigoted, straightforward telling of the news"  and apparently William’s association with Fox News ran counter to that.  At the same time he goes on a racist, bigoted and frankly uninformed rant about the Tea-Party, was open (or at least didn’t condemn) to slamming Jews and chuckled at the suggestion that radical Muslims called NPR “National Palestine Radio”.

He also said "it is clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding."

That’s been clear to me for decades.   But for some reason, or perhaps multiple reasons, each time ending the subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the organization that passes those funds on to NPR) is brought up, we’re told that NPR can’t survive without it.

Uh, fine, so let it “wither on the vine”.  NPR will either do that or find a way to survive and, per Schilling, it really would be better off without it.

I say grant his wish. 

As David Harsanyi asks:

The function and purpose of government has been rather expansive over the past few decades. Do we really believe that providing tax subsidies for entertainment and journalism is one of the charges of government?

No.  Neither is it a charge of government to provide corporations with subsidies, or ethanol producers, mohair producers, “green energy” companies, farmers, or any of a almost endless list of those given subsidy via government.

NPR’s particular case will probably see it’s subsidy ended – not because it is the right thing to do and as a precedent for ending subsidies everywhere, but because Ron Shilling made it indefensible by the left.

Looking at the list of subsidies this government pays out gives one the understanding as to how deep government’s tendrils are and how many there are.  If subsidies were a cancer, I’m sure the doctor would pronounce the disease to be in stage 4.

It is a habit – an addiction – we have to break if we’re ever to see “smaller, less intrusive and less expensive government.”  Let’s start with NPR, but for the right reasons.

~McQ

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